People Share Why They Are Or Aren't Religious.
Religion is a very personal choice for some people. The following AskReddit users share their opinions on the topic by answering the question: "Why or why aren't you religious?" - with the utmost reflection and honesty.
Source list available at the end.
When I was in elementary school, I was the most religious kid you would have ever meet. I dragged my parents to church on Sundays. I vowed that when I got older I would give away all of my money to the poor/charities, and I was even thinking of becoming a priest.
Then one day during 5th grade, my teacher was dictating to the class, "Only those who let Jesus into their hearts and are Catholic will be accepted into heaven."
I rose my hand and asked, "My mom is Protestant, is she going to heaven?"
"No, your mother is going to hell."
I can still remember that to this day. It just completely shattered my beliefs, and I went home crying to my parents. They raised hell at my school like no one's business, and the teacher was forced to apologize. But that was such a major blow to everything that I had believed in, and it really started me on the path of completely walking away from the church.
I had a very similar upbringing (raised in a Catholic home, Catholic schools, etc.) and also had a world religions class that required us to speak with someone from a different faith. A classmate and I ultimately had to go to a Mosque and speak with someone there, and my other classmates went to different places of worship for Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. After that class, that was the end of trying to establish any one religion, let alone my own, as true.
How can anyone be so convinced that their religion is the way when there are so many "ways"? It seems that the main point of all religions across all societies is to just live your life to the best of your abilities and to be a decent human being.
So needless to say, I do not believe in Catholicism or Christianity or anything as being a faith to truly hold anymore, and I'm happy for it. I think Durkheim put it best: "God is society, writ large."
I was raised in a Hindu family, and whenever I was up to some mischief, my nanny would tell me, "God is always watching, and he would poke your eyes out if you get into trouble." I was six, and I would think, "If God created me and made me get in trouble... why would he punish me for that?"
I don't think I ever seriously believed in it. Whenever we went to any temples, I would admire the sculptures and all of the jewels adorned by the Gods and Goddesses, but that's it. A friend told me that when she went to a temple and saw the deity, she would feel a small shiver (of thrill? of happiness? I am not sure) go through her. I remember thinking, "Damn, why doesn't that ever happen to me?" I thought staring at the idol intently would make me shiver, but nope I felt nothing.
My mom is religious and my dad and older brother are not. I think that also had an influence on me. I didn't know that atheism was a thing until I read "God's Delusion" though, and suddenly I went, "Oh! I am one!"
But Hinduism does have some really cool stories, I will give you that. The mythologies are so intricately written and fascinating.
When I was in middle school and high school, I always found other religions fascinating. I was raised Christian, but my parents weren't super religious, and we never went to church. In the time that I was learning about religions, I kept wondering why any of it made sense.
I'm more of a math/science guy, and I like to make sure things are proven. If there isn't a theory backed up with trustworthy data, then I question why anyone could think it. You can't prove God. People can swear up and down that they can feel his guiding hand, but nobody can have any concrete proof if it. That's why you need "faith".
After questioning why it's a thing, I took world history and that opened my eyes even further. There are so many religions even some that are dead now, but they all have something in common. Zoroastrianism is an ancient Persian religion that is very close to Christianity but was created centuries beforehand. It seems like everything stems from something or another, and most God stories were created by storytellers to explain how the world worked.
Religion was created to keep us from being afraid of the unknown. The hope it brings keeps people from worrying about things like death and disease because they have a guardian protecting them if they are holy. I am not an atheist, but neither am I religious. I will forever be a skeptic until the day I die and can see whether there is life after death, or if I just disappear into the void. Only time will tell.
I was raised in a Baptist family, but I've never been a believer. Why? Because no matter how much I was taught to believe, I've never had a personal experience that I could, without a doubt, say that "Oh yeah, God."
My aunt and uncle recently confronted me about my atheism. I asked them this, "Do you believe in unicorns?" They said, "No, of course not." I asked them, "Why not?" They said, "They'd never seen a real living unicorn or any proof that real living unicorns existed."
If I told you I could snap a pencil in half with my bare hands, wouldn't you ask me for proof because it is easily within the realm of possibility? If I told you I could do a triple backflip into a cartwheel and land on both feet, you might believe me, but you'd probably ask to see me do it. If I told you that I could leap over my workplace building in a single bound, you likely would not believe me without some proof first.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the proof that is required.
Many religious people say, "Well I've had close personal experiences with my religion. There is no doubt in my mind it was my deity/miracle/whatever." But human beings are fallible. These same people, like millions of others, have probably experienced sensory illusions such as thinking they heard someone call their name when nobody did or seeing something out of the corner of their eye that wasn't there. Yet, these trivial things get easily dismissed. So, how can I take the personal experience of a fallible human being as proof that their religion is true/their deity exists when we all know that the force of belief and the human mind allows us to play tricks on ourselves?
Show me measurable proof of anything that I could unquestionably relate to a religious experience, and then I'll start seriously rethinking my position.
Life is scary. Bad things do happen for no reason, but facing the unfair realities of life and death and coming to terms with it is extremely challenging for people, especially when your entire paradigm gets shaped for you from the time you're born to the time you become a free thinking, independent person. It basically requires going back to square one and rethinking things all over again. That is super scary and difficult and requires a lot of mental fortitude, intellectual honesty, and persistence.
I do not say that with the intent to put down anyone who is religious or belittle their beliefs. The fact is that I completely 100% know myself that looking into the existential void is scary and that religious faith brings a comfort with it that can help shelter a person from that. I just personally cannot be intellectually honest with myself and do that no matter how scary it might be.
I studied world religions at university, and we talked a lot about modern 'religion' - how people put their faith in different things (often science) and get the cultural and social benefits of religion elsewhere. For example, religion has ritual and sports games have rituals - particular orders, chants, rules, etc. People find comfort in that and are fanatical about sports. Religion also unites people, so we find that unity in things like public displays of grief and memorials after horrible events. Religion isn't disappearing entirely - it does have social and personal benefits, but we're just finding them elsewhere now because it's harder and harder to believe things without proof in an age of information. It was really interesting.
I am religious because it makes me happy, simple as that. It comforts me to think that someone somewhere is watching out for me. Yeah, you don't need religion for that, but it helps me through tough times. It really is that simple.
I was in your boat for a while, not even necessarily agnostic, in that I acknowledged there was no way to know if God exists, but more so that I was avoiding thinking about it. Eventually, I sat myself down and thought for a while and decided that "Yes, I do feel there is a God. But no, he's probably not the way any one religion perceives Him."
I guess for me it comes down to being able to see the good in life. So long as I am able to do that, I will feel that there is some God watching out for me. I don't know what kind of God He is, and I don't think He's watching me every second of the day, but I do think that if I am kind, respectful, etc., He will reward me with a (generally) good life.
I guess it doesn't bother me that I haven't seen any clear signs. Since when has life been that simple? Hell, I can barely even read the signs I'm getting from the guys I date. Let alone from some unknown higher being. It all goes back to me being happy I guess. Things have gone wrong in my life, but I'm still here, and I'm still happy. That's enough proof for me. I guess this thinking would potentially fall apart under serious tragedy, but I am fortunate enough to not know if it would for sure.
I am not religious. I will preface that by saying that I am also not an Atheist. I was raised in a Methodist household, and our church was very liberal and tolerant. Nonetheless, as I reached my mid-teens, I found myself desperately wanting the depth of faith I saw in others.
I took to message boards and chat rooms, spoke to those of myriad systems of belief, and it always came to a point where my questions ended with a singular response - "Well, you must have faith." For a time after that, I ascribed to Atheism, believing that it was the logical course to take. As I grew into an adult, I found that many who declared themselves Atheists practiced the same sort of bias and discrimination as I had seen from the far more prevalent Christians I grew up around.
I'm 23 now and with the aid of our wondrous internet and a plethora of books, I've been able to examine both history and faith. My personal deduction is that it all comes down to being human. We're intelligent animals, but we're still limited in our understanding of many topics. Because of our intellect, we also obsess over eventualities or possibilities, nurture fears and complexes that would not exist were our drives simply attaining enough food and shelter to survive.
I understand the logic of faith and the areas where it can provide an individual with security or peace of mind. Both of these are invaluable things to possess. Given how many arguments I've endured about this, my stance has become rather more streamlined.
Imagine yourself in utter, pitch darkness. You cannot even see your own hand an inch in front of your face. You stand before a forest, and your goal lies on the other side. You absolutely must pass through it, and as you do, you hear the crackle of leaves, nocturnal predators, and prey, snapping twigs and the small fits of slumbering creatures. Your mind, possessing the towering drive for creativity which it does, fills your head with nightmare visages and slavering maws. Is it easier to simply say, "I must do this, and so despite my fears, I will press on." Or to give that fear up, to believe that your actions are ordained, that you are defended by some force beyond your understanding or reckoning? That to simply clutch at a talisman or invoke a name carries with it the power to see you safely on your way?
It is my humble belief that faith of one stripe or another will exist until mankind eradicates every gap of knowledge in the known universe. So long as those gaps exist, fear will fill them, and men will do their best to plaster those fears with duct tape and faith.
For me, to simply exist with the functions of a human being is enough. I do what I can to thrive in the moment, and take great joy and comfort in the simple mechanics of living, breathing, and feeling the sun beat down upon my back. I would love to have the certainty provided by a deep and abiding faith, but it remains beyond me and probably always will.
My parents are religious, and I went to a religious elementary school and junior high. I participated in rigorous Bible study programs and youth groups. I did various ministry activities, some voluntarily, others "forced" by my parents, depending on where I was with my faith at the time. I took the studying very seriously and always tried to have a personal understanding. I would question things and study with an appropriate level of skepticism so that I wouldn't be blindly following.
As I got older, the questions became larger, and more doubt developed. Eventually, I fell out of the routine of studying, and my parents allowed me to make my own choice, so I basically stopped cold turkey. For me, religion and spirituality is a very personal thing, and I could never tell someone what they feel is wrong. I still have a larger sense of spirituality that I can't simply explain, but I also find it difficult to accept.
At this point, I consider myself agnostic because I think it is truly impossible for us to understand our universe's origin. As we understand it, things can't come from nowhere, but that is completely illogical because how did matter come to exist at all? I just think there are certain things that we can't understand, and people will always try to explain it with science or religion, but in the end, does it really matter?
In some sense, religion is easier. I still frequently discuss religion, and part of me wants to believe, but that other part simply can not.
I was never a huge fan of organized religion. I used to be that Atheist, but I've calmed down a lot since becoming a huge fan of astrophysics. Just the vastness of the universe inspires enough awe within me without having to marvel at a deity. The universe is my deity in a way.
I also don't believe in an afterlife. Most people are scared of death for the fact that once you're dead, that's it, no more you, period. I feel the opposite. The idea of simply "unbeing" once you're dead gives me a great amount of inner peace, as I struggle with mental health issues, and I look forward to the day when I no longer am residing in nothingness and silence.
Science serves as my dogma and its philosophical implications serve as my afterlife. Knowing the matter that comprises my body will eventually be a part of the earth is my idea of reincarnation, and it gives me enough comfort without the need for religious authorities, prayer sites, or ancient texts.
Though I am religious, it's not in the traditional sense.
I see God as more of a metaphor for the beauty and order of the world. God is the energy that runs through everything. What eastern philosophy would identify as "chi" or "ki". I distinctly remember visiting New Zealand and seeing the abundance of life in the flora and fauna, coupled with the unbelievably beautiful scenery. I thought to myself, "This place has a God."
I don't necessarily subscribe to any doctrine, but I do believe in a natural exchange of energy in our interactions. Ultimately this means allowing for the freest flow of energy. It's hard to put into words, but it gives me peace and direction.
I started off agnostic, but then I actually gave it a chance.
I liked going because it made me happy. It was nice. So many people had tried to force me to go before (I live in the Bible Belt), but when I actually made the choice for myself, I was a lot more interested. I don't like the, "Tell your folks, tell your friends, hell tell everybody up in here" aspect but I do enjoy feeling better. I like it because it was my choice, not my parents or the old ladies that would come into my work.
When you've hit rock bottom, hope and faith are easier to hang on to other than logic.
Whether you're religious or not, respect is the most important thing.
The largest reason I'm religious, though, is because I feel what I learn is true. It gives me meaning and purpose. If I didn't believe in a God or eternal consequences for my actions, I would question why I was waking up every day. There has to be a purpose to life.
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods but they are unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.
The Buddhists have a saying that goes something like this, "Religion is a finger pointing at the moon. We would do well to remember to focus on the moon and not the finger."
Having faith requires one to have doubt. If you don't have doubt, then you just have knowledge, not faith. It's being able to swallow that doubt and believe in something that you have no evidence of and might not make logical sense to you that makes it faith. That's how you do it.
I think my interest in Greek and Roman mythology was a big part of me questioning Christianity, to the point of dropping it. Thinking that those people actually believed those myths back then to the same extent that we believe in these religions today hit me like a hammer. We scoff at the idea that Zeus or Mars or Ra existed, yet we are so sure that Jesus was real.